BACKGROUND: Since we began in 1979, The Home Depot has become the world's largest home improvement retailer with more than 800 stores selling a wide assortment of building, home improvement, and lawn and garden products. There are two main reasons for our success: our reputation as an innovator in the home improvement industry and our ultimate level of customer service.

PLATFORMS: The Home Depot is currently running SequeLink on database servers including DB2 for MVS, Informix on HP-UX and application servers including TSI/Novera JBusiness.

PROBLEM SOLVED: The Home Depot is always looking for ways to use technology to better serve our customers, and our information systems play a big role in doing so. Our IT group has been transforming existing systems and developing innovative new ones ­ all to serve our customers better. For example, we've transformed our two-tier client/server applications to a new dynamic three-tier application server architecture. We've implemented a variety of standards from CORBA and Java to ODBC. With this heterogeneous environment, we needed a data integration framework that could leverage our data assets across a variety of databases, standards and platforms. We selected MERANT DataDirect SequeLink to provide data access and integration across our various applications, databases and middleware environments. It's all about flexibility. With a variety of technologies installed, we don't want to lock ourselves into any one database or platform vendor. With SequeLink, we can integrate any of our applications and databases ­ all with one product. SequeLink helps us evolve with our business because of its depth of support for architectures, platforms, databases and standards. As we build more applications, they often require the same data. One application may be character based; another may be Web based; and the next might be a graphical, touch-screen kiosk. Whatever way people want to get data, we want to make sure we can facilitate that.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: With one client component, SequeLink can integrate our various databases such as SKU data stored in Informix and our market mix data stored in DB2 with all of The Home Depot's applications. SequeLink is 100 percent pure Java; so as our environments grow, we're covered. SequeLink provides multiple levels of security which is useful when you have various types of users, from suppliers to employees to customers, accessing the data. SequeLink directly accesses the mainframe, providing fast access to our DB2 data.

STRENGTHS: SequeLink provides the flexibility and performance we require. For flexibility, SequeLink covers it all ­ from customers, suppliers and service providers to high-transaction retail data ­ across new types of applications, from Java to mobile devices.

WEAKNESSES: It is difficult to administer multiple SequeLink installations. SequeLink does not have one master console to manage the enterprise. Each SequeLink must be administrated individually by logging on to each host system. SequeLink needs more administrative tools (UNIX and MVS). I believe the next version will address this.

SELECTION CRITERIA: The Home Depot needed a data access and integration solution that could integrate data across a variety of applications and standards in real time. SequeLink distinguished itself by being able to accommodate our heterogeneous environment and, at the same time, provide robust functionality such as distributed transaction support and scrollable cursors ­ critical to our distributed environment.

DELIVERABLES: SequeLink provides a single component to integrate all of our databases, allowing us to implement one middleware product for all of our data needs. SequeLink supports our rapid growth in distributed application development and enables us to integrate new types of data ­ from customers to suppliers ­ across a variety of environments.

VENDOR SUPPORT: MERANT's support is the best I've seen in the industry, by far. Middleware is not an easy product to support. You have to be experts on the middleware and on the client side, the server side, other vendors' databases and other applications. The engineers are more knowledgeable about vendor databases (Informix, Oracle, etc.) than the actual vendors. And MERANT handles it all. In one case, we reported a bug on the Friday before a holiday weekend. By Tuesday, we had a solution. That was above and beyond the call of duty.

DOCUMENTATION: SequeLink documentation is easy to understand. When we needed to understand some tuning options, we referred to the manual and they were listed in detail.

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